This is what changing the world looks like. A new report out this week finds the U.S. leads the industrialized nations of the world in shifting away from coal, a feat even more remarkable because we are home to the world’s biggest fleet of coal plants. This remarkable progress has been over a decade in the making, and was made possible by Beyond Coal activists who first stopped utilities from building a wave of new coal plants, and then proceeded to win dozens of campaigns to retire existing coal plants across the United States and replace them with clean, renewable energy. Even better, the news comes in the lead-up to international climate negotiations in Paris this fall, where the U.S. is positioned to lead thanks to this unprecedented progress on coal and clean energy.
As the report released by E3G puts it, the U.S. is “leading a clear move away from coal evident across all G7 members” (with one exception – Japan). That’s because, since 2005, 184 proposed new coal plants, valued at $273 billion, have been cancelled at various stages of development. Retirements of existing coal plants are gathering pace, with 205 plants representing 84 gigawatts of capacity already confirmed for retirement. And that progress will accelerate over the coming months, as we work toward our goal of securing replacement of half the nation’s coal plants with clean energy by 2017.
This report confirms what I’ve been living and breathing for many years now: Communities who want clean energy and no more dirty coal power are a force to be reckoned with. They comprise a sophisticated network of grassroots activists across America who are moving the global needle on climate, carbon pollution, and clean energy. Together they have been successfully challenging coal operators who are trying to prop up aging plants, and they are unstoppable, because they’re driven by the very real and present danger coal poses to our climate, clean air, and clean water. Overall, coal is the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., as well as the nation’s largest source of mercury, sulfur dioxide, and toxic water pollution.
We recently announced the retirement of the 200th coal plant nationwide (we’re now up to 204), which represents the phase out of nearly 40 percent of the 523 U.S. coal plants that were in operation just five years ago.
While we knew this was big news domestically, this new report confirms that it’s a big deal for the planet as well. The work of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign and more than 100 allied organizations to retire these plants and replace them with clean energy has enabled the United States to lead the industrialized world in cutting global warming pollution, and has put the White House on firm footing to push for a strong international climate accord in Paris at the end of this year. As the report states,
The USA is leading the charge despite facing the largest challenge given the scale of its existing coal use. With 288GW of capacity, the scale of the coal fleet in the U.S. is more than twice the size of the other G7 members combined. Nevertheless, the USA is making the most positive progress of all the G7 countries; recent retirement announcements amount to more than 84GW by 2020, with new policies reducing coal pollution and setting the framework for investment in clean energy.
I continue to be in awe of our tireless activists nationwide – they are not only cleaning up our air and water, but they’re also giving our climate a fighting chance. And they’re working hard to ensure that coal power is replaced by clean, renewable energy. In the lead-up to Paris, this grassroots rebellion is moving the global carbon needle, and I’m so grateful for everyone involved in this game changing campaign.
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